Gamification: The Art of Getting Others to do Your Work for You

Gamification: The Art of Getting Others to do Your Work for You

25th October 2011

This post is part of the coverage of the Distilled’s Searchlove London event.

Good morning folks, for those of you just joining the coverage we’ve been tirelessly pumping out notes on a handful of the sessions at Distilled’s Searchlove London event. Up next we’ve got coverage from Richard Baxter of SEOgadget talking about something near and dear to me: Gamification.

I’m really excited for this one so let’s get going.

Richard kicked us off with a story about a guy called Kevin Richardson- the man who invented the Speed Camera Lottery. People get annoyed when they get tickets so they decided to make use of the fact that making people feel good an motivated is better than just punishing -using persuasion. What happened is that anyone that drove through the speed camera below the limit got entered into a lottery from the payments from all of the people who had to pay for going over.

The average speed went down from 32 on average to 25.

Get Glue:

In their first three months, 1 million users, 100 million data points and shipped out thousands and thousands of stickers. Amazing, but how on earth are they making profit? Because it’s an advertising platform and collecting information on demographics, popularity, etc. and providing the entertainment industry with amazing data – sold.


“The point system has dramatically improved engagement + contribution on Moz. We’ve grown community content 200%+ in the past 24 months.”

We’re going to be using Game Mechanics to improve engagement and interaction with your website.

How do we do this?

Step 1: You need points. They’re very powerful. SEOmoz use experience points but there are also reputation points (Rich referenced StackOverflow where in exchange for helping other people out you get points and your reputation score increases). Points can earn you more money. If you have social proof like this clients know that developers are highly rated by their community. Richard even just hired his last SEO in part because they rank 25th in SEOmoz’s community.

But points are meaningless without a leader board.

Step 2: You need a leaderboard to get people’s competitive spirit out and allow them to compare and be compared against others. Salesforce does the same with Nitro by gamifying real life. Sales guys get stats to see what they’re doing well, awards them with points and badges but it also lets them compare to others.

We can also use game mechanics to help people learn how to use our products – Richard mentions Ribbon Hero 2 where clippy teaches you how to use Microsoft Office products. Rather than having him jump up when it thinks you need help (as was the case back in the day) you have challenges to help clippy fix his CV, etc. Your userbase is having fun and you’re helping them learn about your product.

It’s not just about a smarter userbase – they’re also rewarding their userbase with templates and so forth and encouraging upgrades as well as you need to have Office 10 to get past certain levels – really clever!

Encourage users to hand over data – it makes us smarter marketers. Who does this? LinkedIn with the goals and “profile completeness” – SEOmoz does the same thing. If you give points you can incentivise them to help you do your job better. You are encouraging your users to get a sense of ownership over their profiles. By uploading a photo and so forth you’re comitted, so the more you encourage them to invest in their profiles you might find that they’re more interested in coming back and engaging in your other gamified stuff.


Rich doesn’t know that Foursquare should work but the beauty of it is that does. Rich thinks this has to do with velocity and the fact that it makes quite boring stuff exciting and PR worthy – not knowing when a reward is coming and the fact that they come almost at random is what Rich feels makes this work.

Virtual Currency/Goods

Here Rich referenced the XBOX marketplace where you can exchange Microsoft points (which you do pay for) and buy real goods like games or remarkably can buy things for your avatar. Zynga for example (on Facebook) spent £800m+ on virtual crops and so forth that they cannot have.

If you have a crappy product it really doesn’t matter. There will be people in this room with great products who want to motivate people to do things but there will be other people that might be thinking: I need to revamp my website and so forth, but you need to ask why.

What could we do/take away from this?

Gamification for Good – IMOK, a checkin platform for kids. Connected just from one phone to the other and checking in lets the parent know they’re ok. You get points for checking in and then choose things to exchange them for. There is an appropriate reward for things. Parents have to fulfill this for now but soon you’ll probably be able to exchange these points directly through retailers, absolutely brilliant opportunity. You can sell products based on something unrelated to your product… incredibly smart.

Reward with Status- top contributors in Webmaster forums will get flown out to Google and learn all sorts of things. This is a huge incentive to people who are likely to be involved here. People are motivated by STATUS- sometimes even more so than by financial reward. Think about people like Gianluca Fiorelli who can gain status by being an active member in a community [an aside here I think SEOmoz have been brilliant with the way that they have engaged him and encouraged him and helped him get exposure for his work in their community so fair props all around].

Having “staff approved” answer in QA forums can be really good for this sort of thing as well.

Create signups/sales with loss aversion- Richard is talking about Cheezburger networks, you can find a badge but you have to register to keep it! If you’re a webmaster make a discount code with 10 minutes to live and require people to login or register to get it or just use it to get people to feel pressure to check out more quickly [people like Ticketmaster do this very well].

The next example was to help incentivise learning – and Richard referenced Codecademy – which is a brilliant platform. You don’t need to register in this case UNTIL you need to keep your points and progress. You’ve got to sign up to keep these things but it’s a good way to get people to user once they’re engaged rather than force registration just to see content. Really clever.

Help people drive their business– here Richard referenced Dribble (a site for designers) and players/designers get involved and get their sites rated/reviewed. The higher you progress the more visible you become within this system. Promoting your own stuff here and connecting with other people can gain designers exposure and help them then sell their goods.

Generate Reviews– badge and point system for heavy users? That’s what Netcars have done and more reviews and ratings will help generate more pageviews and visitors. So, by helping their users drive more business to their own site can help also reward the host site. All you have to do is build up expert status for these people and the way they are going to approach this is by using a forum.

Increase signups- here Richard referenced Dropbox. What does 250mb cost dropbox? Nothing really. So what do they do, offer you more space if you get other people to sign up. The next person then also gets an incentive (they get the extra space as well)… really clever.

With the Xbox Live game if you get someone to join you get another 100 Microsoft Points – there’s not any REAL cost here but it can help drive people more.

Reward for Gifting: here Rich referenced Kiva where if you referred someone else who then gave a gift, you got a t-shirt. You’re getting a reward for not having actually done anything.

Reward for Uplaoding Content– Lockerz & Klout have encouraged users to do this sort of thing. But what’s really clever with Lockerz is that they’re rewarding users to interact and connect with other viewers and their videos and also charging money on a cost per views basis. Great stuff.

Generate links: you can get a referral link and share it on Facebook (places like SEOmoz have done this well). But you could use this for SEO – encourage users to drop a referral link and reward them for doing it – the reward in this case could be free membership.

Increase social shares: what could you do? Use twitter referrer data as well to identify top users – if you’re logged in, you could create a URL for the user and incentivise them further by rewarding the share.

Motivate internally to do the same – get your inhouse team to answer FAQ type questions and reward them for their interaction and points.

That’s Richard done, that was really inspiring and cool to watch. As a lover of games I’m really interested to hear a bit more about how this all works from a bit more of a psychological approach. Not much more to say here, good stuff, check back here for more later.


Written By
Sam Crocker is SEO Associate Director at OMD UK. Sam focuses on increasing traffic and conversions for websites whilst always keeping his eye on a company’s bottom line.
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